The objective of the present paper is to investigate the ability of mesolevel X-FEM models with a single layer of elements per ply to capture accurately all aspects of matrix cracking. In particular, we examine whether the model can predict the insitu ply thickness effect on crack initiation and propagation, the crack density as a function of strain, the strain for crack saturation, and the interaction between delamination and transverse cracks. Results reveal that the simplified model does not capture correctly the shear-lag relaxation of the stress field on either side of a crack, which leads to an overprediction of the crack density. It is also shown, however, that after onset of delamination many of the inserted matrix cracks close again, and that the density of open cracks becomes similar to the density predicted by the detailed model. The degree to which the spurious cracks affect the global response is quantified and the reliability of the mesolevel approach with a single layer of elements per ply is discussed.